Three deaths that will likely set back Rouhani

Al-Monitor- This past Iranian calendar year, which ended on March 20, was not favorable to moderate President Hassan Rouhani, despite his expectations. Rather, it turned out to be an ominous year, in the span of which the three main high-ranking clerics who backed Rouhani from the very beginning of his campaign for office in 2013 and through the ups and downs of his presidency died.

In Iran, clerics have consistently had a major impact on people’s views and opinions over the past centuries. A prominent example of this is the “tobacco fatwa,” which was issued in response to a British citizen being granted a full monopoly over the production, sale and export of tobacco for 50 years. Back then, mosques and hosseiniehs (prayer halls used to mark the martyrdom of Shiite imams and figures mostly in the Islamic months of Muharram and Safar) were the most influential media in Iran. The impact of these venues was such that various shahs and governments were loath to issue contentious decrees or sign controversial treaties with foreigners on dates close to Muharram and Safar.

The tobacco concession led to a revolt in Iran and climaxed in the 1891 “tobacco fatwa” issued by Grand Ayatollah Mirza Hassan Shirazi. The religious edict, which was issued with consideration for the situation and expediency of the country, outlawed the use of tobacco and labeled it as tantamount to waging war against the 12th Shiite Imam Muhammad al-Mahdi, who is believed to emerge from occultation at the end of time.

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